A few weeks ago, The Washington Post printed a story about dog auctions. It wasn’t just any story about dog auctions, it was one that insinuated that it is the animal rescuers buying at auctions who are fueling the puppy mill industry.
It has taken me a few weeks to gather my thoughts and tame my emotions. As many know, puppy mill dogs are nearest and dearest to my heart and saving them from a life of living hell is what I am most passionate about. To hear that people like me are to blame, well, it takes some time to not just react and say something I might regret.
The thing about dog auctions and puppy mills is that I think it is easy to taint people’s minds into believing they aren’t as bad as they really are. For one, few people will ever actually step foot into a dog auction or puppy mill and see one for themselves. Two, far more people want to believe that dogs aren’t suffering in crappy, small cages, with no human attention, bred continuously just so Petland (or insert any pet store) can mass market cute puppies. The entire idea of puppy mills goes against what most dog loving people want to believe, so if someone is willing to paint the picture prettier, people are sure to buy it.
However, as someone who has been, who has bought and who has lived with numerous mill survivors, I refuse to let anyone try to paint a pretty picture. Dog auctions are cruel and nasty, exploiting man’s best friend in the absolute most barbaric way. Anyone, I mean anyone, with a beating heart and a love for animals will leave a dog auction in one of two ways: with a dog they bought or an understanding of why someone would buy a dog. To be honest, anyone who leaves there differently, isn’t someone I want to know.
Maybe not everyone would go to an auction, buy a dog and then make it her life long mission to educate people and free dogs from puppy mill hell, but I did. What I saw and the things I continue to see a decade later, fuel my passion to set the record straight. Maybe the reporter doesn’t see dogs the way I do or maybe she has never been surrounded by crates of dogs just bought at auction, or fostered an emotionally broken mill dog, or woke up in tears knowing how many more there were to save. Maybe she just doesn’t have the compassion I have for dogs. I search my soul to understand why anyone would try to blame rescues for saving lives or paint puppy mills as a pretty picture.
I have been surrounded by crates of dogs just bought at auctions. I remember bringing them to the shelter and watching as first time auction goers held these frightened, shaved, often sick dogs in their arms and cried a thousand tears. No one able to speak because the idea that such cruelty was legal left everyone speechless.
I have fostered mill dogs so scared of every little thing they shut down completely. Dogs afraid of stairs, grass, people, toys, even a water bowl.
I have looked into the eyes of over a thousand dogs only to see no soul able to stare back at me. I have felt the pain and the helplessness. I have been there and I believe I understand what this is really all about.
Let me start right away with the most obvious fact. The live pet trade is a 2.1 BILLION dollar business annually. I have reached out to numerous contacts who buy at auctions to get a feel for what they believe is actually spent by rescue in a single year at all dog auctions. In agreement, the number is around 1 million dollars.
Now, of course, a million dollars associated with rescue might seem shocking. Rescues always say they have no money, but this number includes rescues all over the country who specifically raise dollars to buy dogs at auction. Unlike what The Post article stated, the majority of rescues who buy at auctions are very forthcoming with donors about where the money is going. In fact, most set up fundraising pages specifically for auctions and the medical costs associated with mill dog rescue.
One million dollars is less than .05% of the entire pet trade business! How on Earth can anyone make a statement that a group who contributes less than .05% to an industry is solely responsible for its success? It is simple math. Rescues are not the ones perpetuating the horrifying business of commercial breeding. They just aren’t.
Instead, they ARE saving thousands of innocent, helpless dogs from a lifetime of hell. There is a new FB page dedicated to educating the public on the very dogs bought at auctions by rescues. It is called The TRUTH about Puppy Mill Auction Rescue. On this page, they post pictures and medical histories of the dogs they have pulled from auction floors. Interestingly, one will find that the dogs they pull are not puppies but dogs so sick and neglected that they could barely stand, barely function. Females who were listed as pregnant who still had stitches from the last caesarean.
The Post reported that breeders who attend these auctions have lovely kennels. Yet, with further investigation, these are actual pics of the breeder shown in that article. A much different reality than previously reported. Over 230 dogs in one place.
There was talk of how much is too much to spend at an auction saving lives. Sadly, this has become a great divide in the animal welfare world. As someone who has spent $25 – $450 on a single dog at auction, I ask what price is right? Some say not more than one would spend on lunch. I say, “Lunch where? A deli, a sit-down cafe, or on the 16th floor in Trump Tower?” Who decided what is lunch money? Who decides what number is okay?
Is it okay to buy a 10 year old Chihuahua for $40 but not okay to buy a 6 year old Shih Tzu for $800 whose eyes are crusted shut and still has rusted metal wire in her infected belly from a half-ass caesarean? Would someone in rescue actually believe it makes sense to leave her to suffer?
Some say they disapprove of one rescue spending $25,000 at an auction. So, if 25 rescues attend and each spend $1000 that would be acceptable? Others find disapproval in breed specific rescues attending saying it is unfair to only buy their breed. Hmmm? Do they feel that way when Great Dane rescue pulls a Dane from a county shelter?
Lastly, there are those who say, “I know I would buy if I went to a dog auction, so I don’t go.” And, they go on to criticize those who do for spending so much money. Well, here is a newsflash, just because you choose not to go, does not mean there aren’t thousands of dogs still suffering and in need of rescue. Just because you choose to look the other way, put your head in the sand, does not mean that this hellacious industry doesn’t exist.
From day one, I have said I would never be a hypocrite. I have bought dogs at auctions for all kinds of prices, all kinds of reasons, and all kinds of breeds. From prices of $25 to over $400. For reasons such as the oldest there to the one who looks sickest. From breeds like Chinese Crested Powder Puff, Goldendoodle, Dachshund, Puggle, Shih Tzu, to mixes, etc… It is easy to sit outside the auction house and make random statements about who is acceptable to rescue and for how much. Try walking in…
I beg ALL rescues to walk in just once and look into the cages and see the hundreds of eyes looking back at them and then tell me who doesn’t deserve to be saved that day.
I don’t think they can and that is why I continue to support those brave enough to walk into an auction and face the lifeless dogs and do whatever it is they can to save them. To me, all dogs matter and these dogs deserve a second chance just as much as dogs in the meat trade, the strays in 3rd world countries and the homeless dogs on death row in our own city shelters. And, when one realizes that less than .05% of the money in the pet trade is coming in due to rescue, can’t we deem their lives, “priceless” and move on?
That is what we need to do: move on from an article that places blame on the very groups doing everything in their power to make things better, from physically saving mill dogs to standing before their legislators begging for change. The number one thing The Post article failed terribly at was actually describing mass breeding operations.
Rescues wouldn’t spend money or time buying mill dogs if they didn’t feel it was the dogs’ only hope. Rescues go to auctions because they know damn well where these dogs are coming from and it is NOT the pretty kennels The Post described or pictured.
Most of the breeders who attend the auctions are large scale, USDA licensed, puppy factories. They aren’t hobby breeders. These places have hundreds of dogs on-site and few people to care for them Thanks to Bailing Out Benji we can take a look at the sheer number of puppy mills in just the state of Missouri, where the auctions take place. There are over 800 mills and some of the HSUS 100 worst!
Rescues don’t go to auction to contribute to the industry. They go to save dogs from suffering.
For maps of puppy mills in other states, visit this page at Bailing Out Benji.
To get an in-depth look into the world of USDA licensed kennels, I strongly urge you to buy a copy of The Doggie in the Window, by Rory Kress and sit down and read her description of the numerous USDA approved kennels across America. Kress is the ultimate journalist using all of her impeccable skills to demonstrate the failed USDA’s attempts to regulate the commercial breeding industry. She shows throughout her amazing book how these facilities are stricken with dead puppies, sick dogs, rats, feces covered floors yet pass inspection again and again. Dogs with no food or potable water, no medical care, left to suffer because the USDA is NOT doing their job.
The Post never mentioned that “USDA licensed” means jack shit in the USA.
If you love dogs, and I think you do because you read my blog, please make sure you do your research before buying into the crap The Post is selling. I have been in the trenches, I have held the head of a sick mill dog, I have carried numerous crates full of mill dogs just rescued from auction, I KNOW, I REALLY KNOW the truth.
I wrote Bark Until Heard detailing the heartbreaking things I witnessed at auction, just so people would know the truth. I am passionate about only this. Do not be fooled by the agenda of others. The truth is the truth and it is that millions of dogs are being held prisoners of greed in the hands of people who only care about money – not animals.
The success of puppy mills has NOTHING to do with the rescuers and everything to do with the bad breeders, the worthless USDA inspections and the lackadaisical legislators failing us everyday to make the changes needed.
Please, before you judge the passionate work of rescuers literally SAVING the lives of innocent dogs, go to an auction, foster a mill survivor, or, at the very least, talk one-on-one with someone whose heart breaks a million times when they painfully recall the mill dog they couldn’t save – those are the people who KNOW the real truth, the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking reality of mass-breeding and dog auctions.
My soul knows the truth, my heart feels the truth and my eyes have seen the truth behind mass breeding and dog auctions and because of that I have zero regrets about buying a dog’s freedom.